CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While other choirs and orchestras present Christmas classics this season, the Charleston Civic Chorus will add twists to the traditional holiday show. Fusing elements of Eastern and Western music, choreographed dancers and black light, the Civic Chorus presents its featured work, "Luminosity," in its winter concert Sunday at the Charleston Baptist Temple.
For 60 years, the Civic Chorus has presented Charleston audiences with unique repertoires, from significant choral standards to compositions no more than 10 years old. Though the winter concert features recognizable pieces like Ken Berg's "Sing We Now of Christmas" and John Rutter's "I Wish You Christmas," it incorporates contemporary works "Luminosity" by James Whitbourn and "A Celtic Blessing of Light" by Eleanor Daly, among others.
"Luminosity" focuses on "the transcendent beauty of creation and enlightenment of the soul as expressed by luminaries and mystics through the ages," according to the Chorus' website. It was first commissioned by conductor James Jordan of Westminster Choir College in April 2008 for performance alongside the black-light dance company Archedream.
"It's exciting music," said 31-year conductor Dr. J. Truman Dalton. "'Luminosity' is hard to put into words. It's an experience."
"Luminosity" features viola, tanpura (an Indian stringed instrument) and tam tam, similar to a gong. With organ and piano accompaniment by Randall Peters, the performance will be a collaboration with January Wolfe and dancers from her Academy of Arts at January's, performing with black light.
Civic Chorus president and 39-year member Conrad Haskell attributes most of the group's success and longevity to artistic director Dalton. He believes Dalton's unique song selection has kept Charleston audiences interested over the years.
"Dr. Dalton's choices of works are largely leaning to very fine compositions, arrangements composed in the last 10 to 15 years," Haskell said. The chorus has performed pieces by "so many composers who have achieved international stature we don't feel we have to rely on Bach, Beethoven and so forth. That approach has appealed to our audience," he said.
Dalton says Charleston audiences "have come to expect what we do with traditional text and new arrangements."